Partnership Working Between the Diocese & Local Authority in Stockton

The local authority SRE Coordinator in Stockton and the Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle have established an effective working relationship which is supporting the provision of SRE in local schools.

How it started
Local authority SRE Coordinator, Clare Harris met with the Head teachers of five Roman Catholic primary schools. These five schools already work together in a cluster. The meeting focused on how they wanted to develop their SRE provision. During the meeting it became evident that it would be helpful to work with the Diocesan Education Service.

Understanding roles
The SRE Coordinator contacted the Diocese and then met with the Deputy Director of Education and the primary and secondary RE Advisors. This was a useful opportunity to find out about each other's roles. In Voluntary-Aided schools (which are usually faith schools) governors have particular responsibilities and (in the case of Catholic or Church of England schools) will take their guidance from the Diocese - this includes guidance on SRE, worship and (inspection of) RE provision. The SRE Coordinator provided clarification on national guidance on SRE and information about what other schools are doing locally.

The SRE Coordinator and Diocesan Assistant Director (of Education), Theresa Laverick (who has responsibility for RE and SRE) arranged a day to jointly meet with the cluster of primary schools. The Diocesan Advisor focused on explaining 'what good SRE would look like' from the Diocesan perspective. The distinctive nature of SRE in Catholic schools was highlighted and the importance of nurturing human wholeness. The local authority Coordinator focused on practicalities such as effective teaching techniques for SRE. The meeting was attended by Head teachers and their PSHE / SRE leads.

A range of SRE resources were available for the Heads and teachers to look at, including 'Lucinda and Godfrey': a resource produced by the local authority, and 'Journey in Love', All that I Am' and 'Statements to Live By' which are specifically designed for Catholic schools. Individual schools, guided by the governing body, made different choices about resources and some decided to use a combination of resources.

A joint-governor meeting was then held with the 5 cluster schools and almost 50 governors attended. The Assistant Director (of Education) from the Diocese co-led the session with the local authority Coordinator.

Ongoing support for schools
Whichever resources the schools had chosen the local authority Coordinator offered ongoing training and support. Each school received individualised training and support for teachers and teaching assistants. This covered issues such as use of correct terminology, how to make lessons fun, distancing techniques and boundaries. Teachers grew in confidence and felt better able to use the teaching resources.  The local authority Coordinator has also attended parents meetings at some schools to support the school in discussing SRE with parents. Diocesan-wide training was also offered to support the schools.

Continuing dialogue between the Diocese and local authority
The Diocese wanted to update their model policy for SRE and asked for the local authority Coordinator for some input. The local authority Coordinator also contributed to the SRE event for Catholic schools across the North East, which the Diocese organised. The local authority Coordinator spoke about national developments in relation to PSHE education legislation and SRE guidance, and then ran a workshop demonstrating the use of the circle-time technique. Diocesan input included the response of the Diocese to government proposals regarding SRE, a workshop for teachers in secondary schools and an exploration of the SRE programme 'Journey in Love'.

Plans for the future
Continued partnership is essential around this effective working relationship, not just to keep up with national developments but local ones too.  This model has been proven to work so over the coming months it is anticipated that it will roll out with other cluster groups of Catholic and Church of England schools in the local authority. The Diocese plan to develop their draft materials and guidelines on SRE and publish an updated model SRE policy on their web-site. 

Success factors

  • All partners acknowledged that there is not 'one right way to do SRE' - rather there is a need to tailor provision to the context
  • Schools had the opportunity to choose resources and have ownership of their SRE programme
  • Both the Diocese and local authority SRE Coordinator had clearly defined and understood roles and benefited mutually from their regular communications
  • Working with a cluster of schools created an effective peer group of Head teachers and momentum for discussion and action


For more information contact
Theresa Laverick, Assistant Director - Schools' RE, Diocesan Education Service, Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle

Clare Harris, SRE Coordinator, Stockton local authority